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FIRST-PERSON: ‘Ten Commandments’ now on DVD

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Cecil B. DeMille’s Oscar-winning classic “The Ten Commandments” will debut as a three-disc collector’s edition DVD on March 21 from Paramount Home Video. Nominated for six Academy Awards and winning for best special effects, DeMille’s 1956 remake stars Charlton Heston as Moses leading God’s chosen people from an enslaved existence in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.

Yul Brynner costars as the Pharaoh who needed a great deal of convincing before allowing the Israelites to flee. And even after several destructive plagues, his heart hardened once more, which led to the destruction of his army, here vividly portrayed by ground-breaking — make that sea-parting — special effects.

Filmed in Egypt and the Sinai with one of the biggest sets ever constructed for a motion picture and truly a cast of thousands, the newly restored and remastered biblical epic has a rare on-screen introduction by Cecil B. DeMille himself, is enhanced by a Dolby surround stereo soundtrack, and features a commentary by Katherine Orrison –- author of “Written in Stone” Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments.” The 3-disc set contains the original 1923 silent version, also directed by DeMille. And there are enough extras (a six-part documentary is a highlight) to keep you entertained for several evenings.

C. B. DeMille was a taskmaster and a hard man, but he had a strong faith and he spent much of his artistic life bringing biblical truths to the general movie-going public. Born in 1881, he was the son of an artistic man torn between being a minister and a playwright. Obviously, the great filmmaker inherited both these traits. Not always respected by his peers due to his gargantuan scenic extravagances, which often overshadowed the films’ dramatics, DeMille always amazed and entertained audiences with his spectacles (“The Squaw Man,” “King of Kings,” “The Greatest Show on Earth,” “The Plainsman,” “Union Pacific,” “Sign of the Cross,” “The Crusades” and “Unconquered”).

His work can be looked at as pious and overtly sentimental, but there’s no escaping the entertainment value. And one other thing -– Cecil Blount De Mille was a storyteller unsurpassed by most. He knew that the narrative, the story, was the true special effect. And never more so than in this grand envisioning of Moses. Heightened by the depictions of plagues, the parting of the Red Sea and the creation of the tablets containing God’s Holy Commandments, the 220-minute extravaganza moves along with a satisfying pace and a standout performance by Heston.

“The Lord of Hosts will do battle for us. Behold his mighty hand,” Heston, as Moses, says before parting the Red Sea.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective. For other reviews, visit his website at www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright